Unfortunately, most of us don’t really take care of ourselves to the extent we need to live happy, healthy, vibrant lives. We focus on taking care of family, working, sleeping, eating and maybe fitting in a workout or sparse social life. What we fail to realize is that taking time to nurture all of our needs is the only way to feel whole and complete and prevent dis-ease. These needs include physical, emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, intellectual, etc.
Self-care is often talked about in two circles – mothers and health care providers. These two groups seem separate but have many of the same characteristics. They are so busy providing, nurturing and giving that they have nothing left for themselves. But then not giving to themselves starts a downward spiral of guilt, fatigue, exhaustion and then eventual breakdown or burnout. Parents need adult interaction. They need time away. Nurses need to take lunch breaks. They need relaxing days off. While the topic of self-care lends itself nicely to women who try to do too much, it’s absolutely applicable to men as well. The stress of trying to be the breadwinner and the unrealistic cultural ideal of what a good husband/father/man is can create unnecessary pressure to do more and be more.
Regardless of your lot in life, this all sums down to one simple idea: We all need to take care of ourselves. Period. If you want to be healthy and happy, you have to take care of yourself every day, not just when things go wrong.
If you’ve never thought much about taking care of all sides of yourself, here is a simple list of ideas to get started. Remember that self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or extravagant. Sure, an exotic vacation every year does help to relax, unwind and rejuvenate, but the effects are short-lived. The day-to-day self-care is what really helps you be more patient, more present and more calm everyday. While it’s common to think self-care time takes away from family or work time, think of it this way: Self-care allows you to be a better mom/partner/employee/etc. Taking care of yourself means you have more to give others.
If you still need help getting there mentally, think of it as an investment. Each time you take care of yourself, you’re making a positive contribution to your sanity, your household, your workplace and your community. Giving all the time only leads to resentment, frustration, anger, short-tempers and hostility. Which do you choose?
So what now? What does self-care look like and how can you get started?
Here are just a few ideas. Self-care is a personal process – you need to find what soothes, satisfies and restores your spirit.
- Take a class (yoga, pilates, zumba, etc.)
- Eat Right
- Try something new (that’s fun) – bonus for bringing your significant other or friend along
- Maintain good hygiene
- Practice yoga or other movement therapy
- Take walks (bonus for bringing your furry friend with)
- Spend time outdoors
- Read (for fun)
- Draw, paint or use your creativity
- Get a massage
- Go out on a date (without your kids)
- Take a vacation (even something simple close to home)
- Knit, sew or make things
- Prioritize personal development
- Practice relaxation techniques (guided imagery, visualization, progressive relaxation, breathing, etc.)
- Consult an expert (psychotherapy, marriage counseling, yoga therapist, life coach, personal trainer, etc.)
- Reduce screen time (put down the phone and step away from the TV)
- Make a lunch or coffee date with friends (positive, loving friends only – no negativity and gossiping)
- Take a bath
As you can see, the options are quite diverse, cover a variety of price points and are of varying length or commitment. The goal is to do some self-care every. single. day. Your health, happiness, sanity and life satisfaction will thank you.
Now it’s your turn. How do you take care of yourself? Share your favorite self-care techniques and experiences in the comments.